Farmers Take Arctic Blast in Stride


An arctic blast closes schools as extreme wind chills plunge Nebraska into a deep freeze. But farmers and ranchers take the cold snap in stride.

A diesel tractor sputters, as a sign of the kind of day Ben Keep had Monday.

He was trying to keep tractors going when wind chills plunged as low as 35 below.

"Something always breaks when it gets this cold," he said.

In this case, an old Allis–Chalmers used to haul hay to cattle.The diesel engine wouldn't cooperate.

Keep said, "If you're running a pure 50/50 blend it'll keep running, but I'm not quite running that and my anti–gel didn't quite work this morning."

From Cotesfield to Hartington in northeast Nebraska and Ainsworth in the north, ranchers and feedlot operators say it's just another day at the office.

Their job is to keep cattle fed, but harder yet, keep them watered.

Keep said, "It's not fun, luckily we're hauling water most of the time to one field, and if you go break ice, get it running, the cattle will come up and it's okay, otherwise if you're trying to keep one open for cattle on a lot, you have all kinds of trouble."

Ben had to break up six inches of ice to get water to his cattle and did so before the sun was up.

"I'm trying to get all the chores done in case something like this breaks and I have the rest of the day to fix things," he explained.

The ground is dry and cattle have a good coat, so they're tolerating it.

Keep said, "Most of our cattle, there's a windbreak of some sort this time of year, if the wind and snow comes, there's some place to go.

But there's nowhere for Ben to go.

"Every day's an adventure," he said.